The new kid on the off- road block comes with the most horsepower and the biggest torque available in the market, and its engine output statistics are quite intimidating to say the least—despite an engine displacement that’s 500cc less than those of the competitors. A boy racer in a normally aspirated 2.0-liter petrol-engine car would have the most embarrassing moment of his life should he decide to challenge the Navara to a traffic-light drag race.
The Nissan also has the best on-road handling characteristics, many thanks to its finely tuned rack-and-pinion steering. It has the widest track in the class, making for excellent road- hugging on fast sweeping turns—clearly a truck you would want to have fun with on long-distance travels and in paved-road conditions.
Yet, the Navara is no slouch on unpaved all-weather roads, or what the government likes to call ‘secondary roads’ outside of Metro Manila. Put simply, these are at least mildly rutted due to constant rains and poor maintenance. Throw the Navara into a power slide in these conditions and expect it to confidently correct its attitude—provided the correct driver inputs are made.
Having a wide track also means having a wider cargo bed, resulting in more cargo room for your large toys that you might want to load the rear with. Then again, that may just spoil the Navara’s masculine lines should you drive by the local coffee shop and end up looking like a utility bloke to the ladies hanging out there.
Getting in and out of the Navara is no chore. Its large doors, spacious cabin and low-slung body will not take the poise out of the ladies riding with you—even with the most avid miniskirt fan among them. For my large six-foot-tall frame, it is also the roomiest and most comfortable for long on-road drives. The long wheelbase of the Navara is a plus for stability in high-speed straight lines. I won’t bother mentioning the details.
Universal Motors Corporation, the local distributor of the Navara, is quite clear on the marketing direction: definitely upscale and not intended to be a utility workhorse. Otherwise, they would have sent us the older Frontier, which they still market for the utility segment. With the Navara’s part-time 4x4 drivetrain and separate ladder- frame chassis (despite its upscale and less utilitarian duties), we intend to pit this pickup against its more utility- inclined competitors.
On the 30-degree, deeply rutted and rock-strewn trail, the wide track of the Navara showed its strength by being the most stable and least prone to tipping over. However, it is severely handicapped by its inadequate ground clearance, beginning with its approach angle for its front bumper (which is lowly slung and aggravated by a chin spoiler that would be the rst to get ripped out when the going gets rough). It’s easy to get into the qualities of a low-slung body with a massive lower-slung stepboard. This minimizes breakover angle work.
Climbing over sharp, angled humps on off-highway conditions may lead to high-center ‘stuck’ situations. Extra caution is required when negotiating uneven terrain. The departure angle— depending on your lifestyle—is both a boon and a bane. It makes loading the cargo bed the easiest in the bunch, ensuring you don’t need a visit to your chiropractor, but the Navara has a tendency to drag its tail and its bumper off the vehicle on very rough terrain with sharp drops. (Beeboy Bargas)
Note: This article first appeared in Top Gear PH's November 2009 issue. Minor edits have been made.